Editorial – Fez, gamers, and entitlement

Posted by: 4/25/2013

During the summer of 2007, Harmonix was releasing new songs for the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II. At the time, Harmonix said that they would release more DLC for Guitar Hero II than any other game on the market. As my friend and I were driving back to our hometown one afternoon, the topic of Guitar Hero II DLC came up.

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“It is bull****,” my friend said. “Why should you have to pay for extra songs that should have been in the game to begin with?”

“We don’t know for sure whether these songs could have been in the final game,” I replied. “There are many things happening behind the scenes that we do not know about. Also, I am okay with having to pay for content that is developed after the game has been shipped.”

The discussion lasted for quite a few miles. We came to the conclusion that gamers should not have to pay for content that could have been in the game when it shipped, but it is okay to charge for DLC that adds plenty of extra content to the game, or if it was developed post-release. This discussion with my friend opened my eyes to how many gamers think, and I have held this mindset since that discussion: gamers feel entitled to more than they get.

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We learned recently that Fez is coming to Steam on May 1. After hearing many great things about Fez, I was very excited that I would finally be able to play the game on PC. Phil Fish, the developer of Fez, had stated when Fez was released for the Xbox 360 last year that he would not release the game on PC. He stated that games do not belong on the computer, the only thing they are good for is using Excel. He could have phrased that differently, but if you know Fish’s personality, it is nothing out of the norm.

PC gamers were upset by his comment, as expected. But people forget and move on, right? Not at all. When it was announced that Fez would be coming to the PC, a boycott movement began. Gamers boycotting Fez wanted to show Fish how important PC gaming is by not purchasing his game.The boycott did not work out well, and soon Fez was the number one selling game on Steam, without being released yet. Instead of boycotting his game because of those comments, PC gamers should want to show Fish how important it is to release games for the PC by supporting Fez.

But comments made by Fish about PC gaming was not the only reason for the boycott. Fez will  be sold for $10 on Steam and GOG.com, but if you preorder the game, you will get 10% off, or pay $9. For some reason gamers became extremely upset about this as they felt the discount should be more than 10%, with one person taking to Twitter to tell Fish that discounting the game by $1 was “pretentious.”

Fish ran with this comment, later saying that the game was available to preorder with “one pretentious dollar discounted.” How entitled are gamers to be outraged by a game being sold for $9 instead of $10? We’re talking about a game that was on multiple game of the year lists for 2012, costing what an average person pays for lunch. We’re talking about giving an indie developer $9, a developer that put years of work and lots of money into a product that almost was not finished. We’re talking about supporting the independent games scene, a scene that is giving the industry unique games that can stand out above AAA titles.

The “pretentious $1 discount” was not a unique reaction to announcements from indie developers in the past few months. Squad, the developers of one of my favorite games Kerbal Space Program, were discussing the future of KSP after it had been added to Steam through the Early Access program. Squad is very open with users about the development of KSP. During one developer live chat that they hold on Twitch.tv every Monday, head developer Harvester mentioned the idea of paid content being added to the game after version 1.0 is released (for reference, the game is on version 0.19, Squad is a least a year away from shipping version 1.0).

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Owners of KSP had a meltdown on the forums, specifically over the ability of base building and colonization on other planets. It was said in the past that this is an idea being thrown around with the development team, but nothing had become official yet. When Harvester said that they were thinking about adding base building as paid content after the final version of the game shipped, many users felt like they were being cheated out of what they paid for.

The only problem is they were not going to be cheated out of any content. If you look at the Kerbal Space Program wiki, there is a section called “Planned Features.” In that section, you can see what Squad is planning to add to the game in future updates.  This is what Squad uses to announce official updates to the game, and no where on that list does it mention anything about base building on other planets. During a previous developer live chat, one of the developers had said that it was an idea that was being discussed, but that was it. Owners of KSP took this as an official confirmation that base building would be in the version that they paid for, which it was not. The reaction was quite ridiculous, with many people on the KSP subreddit saying they did not want Squad to “turn into EA.” One user even suggested that he was afraid Squad would start charging people for new parts!

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The speculation was ridiculous, and was just that, speculation. There was no basis for any of the comments being made about what Squad had planned for the future. In the end, Squad decided to backtrack, and all DLC will be free to those who purchase KSP before the end of April.

Why do gamers feel entitled to more than they get? These two examples do not begin to breach the surface of entitlement. Mass Effect 3 owners felt entitled to a better ending to the game, and that it should be free. EA gave it to them, even though it required a lot of post-release work by Bioware to get gamers what they asked, nay, demanded for. The majority of gamers come from a generation that has been described as being entitled. It could be that they feel entitled to everything in the world, and it just sticks out when gaming is involved.

Whatever the reason is, the feeling of entitlement in the gaming community will not be going away any time soon. This is especially true when developers and publishers cave into demands that gamers have. There is a difference between requesting a feature or content to be added to a game, and flat out whining about something until you get what you want.

So what was Fish’s reaction to people complaining about the preorder price of Fez? Instead of  increasing the discount, he went on Twitter saying he could set the game to any price he wanted to on Steam, and even joked about raising it to $90.

The result was a 750 comment thread on reddit, saying this is why you should not buy Fez, and even calling Fish an “asshole” and a “douche,” all because of a joke.

Gamers need to learn when to relax. I am not saying that they should be obedient to everything a developer or publisher shoves in their face. But some things do not warrant the outrage they receive. Save your anger for controversy that matters, or else developers will be wary to talk about anything for fear of backlash from the community.

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  • Jur

    So then we should see everything what he says as a joke?

  • columnFive

    Yep, there are a lot of entitled gamers out there. There are a lot of entitled people out there, too. The problem with this wave of ‘gee, gamers are so entitled’ articles in media is that they’re frequently used to construct strawman arguments that belittle and malign legitimate consumer and/or fan outrage against price gouging, poor service, and other questionable practices.

    You’re doing it yourself. I was annoyed about Mass Effect 3 for a number of reasons, but at no point did I expect or demand that they correct whatever problems I found, for free. But according to you, that’s what everyone who disliked the game did, so therefore everyone who disliked the game is entitled and their opinion is not worth listening to.

    That’s bad logic. It also fails to represent the host of legitimate problems people had with the game: a day-one DLC character whose mere existence severely altered the overarching plot of the series, an arbitrary Galactic Readiness system that forced people into multiplayer in order to get the ending they wanted, and dumbed-down conversation system that on top of cutting neutral dialogue responses, made Paragon/Renegade more Decent Human Being vs. Nihilistic Psychopath than Jean-Luc Picard vs. Jack Bauer.

    It is entirely possible for people to dislike Mass Effect 3 without them being entitled jackasses. Your article leaves no room for this group of people.

    Quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing this reductionist, ‘shut up already’ argument from the press. Journalists have a responsibility to promote knowledge, understanding, and critical thought in their readership, and the continued release of articles like this damages discussion by painting consumers as a bunch of whiny crybabies every time we speak up about things we don’t like. The truth is that the gap between AA/AAA production costs and game sales is closing rapidly, and that shrinking profit margin has convinced a few people to start cutting corners, and other people to become more paranoid about spending their money. Yes, there are idiots on reddit complaining about paying for expansion packs while KSP is still in alpha, or only getting a 1 dollar discount on the amazing Fez. But there is also the nonfunctional launch of SimCity, the broken pile of crap that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, and the $500 worth of micro-transactions in Real Racing 3. Any editorial on the state of whining in the gaming community should take into account that while it does whine about stupid things, in some cases it has very real things to whine about.

    All that aside, there is more to this story than whiny gamers. You need to start keeping everyone honest, not just the easiest target.